From the readings and conversations in class how do you see yourself teaching treaties, and for what reasons?

The article “Teaching Treaties as (Un)Usual Narratives: Disrupting the Curricular Commonsense” by Jennifer Tupper and Michael Cappello discusses the teaching of treaties in Canada. I want to teach about treaties not because it is mandated, but because it is a subject that few people understand, yet jump to nasty conclusions about and remain ignorant. I did not receive very much teaching about treaties, and nothing comes to my mind when I try to remember a treaty class. I want my students to understand the special circumstances in our province that brought us to treaty agreements so that they understand each other and the development of our country. We are all treaty people because we are Canadians and we made an everlasting agreement; however, few white people realize that they are treaty people.

Dominant colonial foundational stories of white society are landmarked, but those foundational stories involving First Nations people are not. Another reason I want to teach about treaties is because I feel that students (and many adults too) view separate courses, such as Indigenous Studies or Native Studies, as less important, especially when students must “choose” which is better for university. I say “choose” because often those courses are backed with a subject that is mandatory to graduate or for university. The typical view is that these separate courses should teach treaties, and not other classes.

White cultures are dominate while others are labeled with “cultural difference” — this is our excuse for any failures and the solution is to blame the student for not “getting” what we mean. This attitude almost tells people “don’t bother with non-white people”. The “colonized” group (here Aboriginals) is portrayed by the “colonizer” (the white superiors). This allows us to change history by omission and create a one-sided version of events, and blame language barriers as excuses for not following through with treaty agreements, like how the idea of sharing the land became giving up the land. The truth is we tried “Canadianizing” First Nations people to fit the Euro-Canadian vision; in short, we tried to assimilate them. I do not believe that is what the treaties had planned. Teaching treaties approaches racism and racialized identities and with the growing population of Aboriginal peoples it is now more important than ever to end racism. Ideas and ambitions of First Nation signatories should be illuminated for historical accuracy. I want to use the treaties as proof for correcting history, and treaties are not historical artefacts – they are ongoing.

I want to teach treaties in a way that allows understanding of the mistreatment of treaties. White dominance and privilege was paid for by First Nations and Aboriginal subordination. I especially liked the quotation: “the telling of other stories, particularly from the perspective of non-whites, is necessary if we are to interrupt the commonsense understandings” (p. 12). In order to remain respectful when teaching treaty education we must remember we are teaching about the treaty, not the culture.

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2 Responses to From the readings and conversations in class how do you see yourself teaching treaties, and for what reasons?

  1. meganjohns012 says:

    Very interesting points, Nicki! I also agree that people do jump to negative conclusions about treaties because they are not fully educated about treaties. I also think that many people make these negative conclusions because they think that treaties only affect Aboriginal people, which is not true because we are all treaty people. I thought it was interesting how you said because of the growing population of Aboriginal people we need to address racism now more than we ever did before, I also agree with this point. Something to consider regarding this point may be, because of the growing population does this mean that as educators, we should also address other cultures who are amongst our growing population? What about their past/history? What about oppression that they faced? Such as, the building of the railroad by Chinese people or the concentration camps Jewish people were put in. Since our population is growing in our multicultural country, as educators how does this effect what histories or cultures we teach about in school?
    This is a complex and controversial issue that even I don’t know the answer to, but it is something to consider and think critically about. I agree that teaching treaties is defiantly important because it directly effects us living in this part of the world. But is it possible that some of our student coming into our classrooms may feel as if their culture and history should be taught as well?

    • bannermn says:

      Thank you for your comment Megan. Yes, I do feel that other growing cultures should be taught about. I realize the degree to which these cultures are taught will vary, but like the article says it is important to share the perspectives of non-white people. The simple fact is that white people know more about their history but are very uneducated about other group’s histories. It is also important to teach about these cultures because it will help students connect to the material and not feel like they and their history is invisible. Oppression is a subject that I really want to teach about in my classes, and I think it is important to identify different groups who have been marginalized and talk about why that is and what we can do to help change that. I think as people we naturally want to show off our good traits, but we fail to admit that we also make mistakes or have done something wrong. Your examples of the railroad building and concentration camps in Canada may very well be issues that our future students know nothing about. Because we are a multicultural country we must do our best to teach an accurate history and the only way this can be achieved is by telling the stories from different views. Even between British Canadians and French Canadians there are pieces missing which only tell about the dominant culture of the time. I definitely think we should teach about the many cultures in Canada, even if only briefly mentioning them on occasion. I feel like this will not only benefit the students of those races, but the white students who may or may not be exposed to these cultural differences. People are different all over the world and subjected to harsh realities because of it, and this is something we need to talk about with our students if we hope that they will become educated and democratic students.

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